Tai Chi Chuan: 2 goals, 3 choices.
I am often inspired by two goals in tai chi: letting go of resistance + change (= growth) .
Letting go of resistance: Once you get involved in push hands – the issue of resistance is as clear as a bell because stopping your partner in any way creates resistance. The one resisting loses the game and gets pushed.
Change: Change is a bit harder to perceive because it can happen so slowly. Over time, we hope the body gets more integrated, relaxed, interconnected, healthier. More functional. Changes here can be dramatic, but mostly they are very very slow. The longer you practice, the slower the incremental changes occur. “We measure our progress in decades.”
In tai chi, as in life, letting go of resistance and being open to change are critical. It is what you are studying when you study tai chi.
Where do we learn these? Both are challenging. Both create better lives.
Many peeps never learn either. War is a big industry.
So my big concern is finding ways to create a condition for change and to learn how to let go of resistances. This leads me to how can we engage in tai chi, as in “best practices”.
My own experience and observation lead me to a simple conclusion. Simple, that is, in concept, but difficult to embody.
There are three basic choices in working on a new exercise.
The first choice is resistance: “I don’t want to do this, this is too hard, this never helps, I’ve done this a million times before, I can’t do this, I’m not good at this.”
Here one creates a wall. It’s one big NO = TENSION.
The second one is resignation: “OK, if you insist, I’ll do this exercise. I’ll go along to get along, but I know this one won’t help, sure, I’ll do it to please you but it won’t really please me.”
This one bears a grudge and partly you might feel compromised. Stoic, at best, but not enthusiastic. This is a YES, BUT NOT REALLY = COLLAPSE.
We say in tai chi “relax, don’t collapse”. But we also emphasize structure without getting stiff. We look for the middle way, exactly between stiff and collapse, and that is essentially relax. Because of this, it’s actually difficult to say what relax really is because in one sense, it is not this and it is not that. You can’t do a “not”. “Relax not collapse” is the absence of tension and it is “letting go” but maintaining a structure.
The final way - which works 100% of the time, money back guaranteed - is to FULLY PARTICIPATE. Here you are on mission to discover something new. Even when the exercise is old and you feel that you have already discovered all there is to discover, the “new” here is the deepening of the experience through repetition. That, of and in itself, can open doors. FULLY PARTICIPATE = EMBRACE.
This brings to mind The 18 Therapies. Maggie Newman, my teacher, introduced them to us after many years of tai chi. In one regard they were disappointing. Too easy, too simple, boring, no challenge, nothing dazzling to show your friends. Whoa! Resistance and resignation reared their ugly heads! We were soooo superior to these exercises.
For me, the challenge with The 18 Therapies was in the EMBRACE. It was one HUGE exercise in embracing! Here the resistance was that they seemed too easy, too simple and worse, they would not further the “I want to be the best in tai chi” agenda. But if you can, these exercises too are pleasurable, rewarding, beneficial.
So the next time you have the urge to resist or just grudgingly go along, CHANGE your attitude, let go of RESISTANCE and begin to EMBRACE the experience.
What does it have to offer you today? What can you learn from it? How can you incorporate this into your form, your life? What will happen next if I get in the experience? How can I master this? What do I need to do?
Tai chi/Life is more challenging that way, more rewarding, and much much more fun!
To go one step further, how can you embrace ALL experience, not just the ones you like? What does it mean to embrace a negative situation, and have no resistance or resignation? There are no simple answers here…